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Save Our Schools Arizona
Weekly Education Report

56th Legislature, 1st General Session
Volume 5, Issue 21 • Week of May 29, 2023

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Another Day, Another Voucher Scam

The Arizona Legislature remains recessed this week and is not slated to return until Monday, June 12 — but there’s still plenty going on with public education. 

First, Congratulations Class of 2023! Our social media timelines are filled with images of high schoolers graduating, 8th and 5th graders promoting, and kindergarteners and preschoolers walking with pomp and circumstance. It’s an enormous reminder of the critical impact of public schools on our communities and on the future of our state. We are so grateful to every Arizona educator, administrator, staff member, cafeteria worker, bus driver, aide, and interventionist dedicating themselves to Arizona’s students. 

Another day, another ESA voucher scam: This week, Gov. Hobbs declared a Ducey-era ESA voucher grant of $50 million illegal and invalid, and is working to claw those funds back from the Treasurer’s Office. The grant, signed by Ducey in one of his final acts as governor, improperly uses federal COVID relief dollars to fund all-day kindergarten for ESA voucher users — even though Arizona only funds a half-day for the 76,000 children who attend kindergarten at our public schools. 

We applaud this rollback, but also caution that this one-time action does nothing to solve the state budget crisis, add financial accountability to the voucher program, or prevent vouchers from bankrupting the state. The ESA voucher program continues to balloon at 1,000 students per week (the vast majority of whom were already in private school, representing a brand new cost to the state). The program will likely double by next year at a cost of $1 billion every year. Neither Gov. Hobbs nor the Legislature has any plan to fund this massive, growing expense.

At least we’re not 49th: Meanwhile, a report released this week from the US Census Bureau shows Arizona remains 48th nationwide in per-student spending for public schools. Despite the increases Arizona has made in education funding, other states have moved the needle further. This means Arizona students are receiving 68% of what their peers receive for their K-12 education nationally. It also means Arizona students receive a staggering $4.5 billion less per year than the national average. Our students have one chance at an education — and because of decades of chronic underfunding, they are missing out on the classes, resources, extracurriculars, and experiences of their peers across the US. 

Now, this is what we’re talking about! This week, the governor of North Carolina declared a State of Emergency for public education across the state. Gov. Cooper called on state legislators to protect North Carolina’s public schools (which he calls the “bedrock of North Carolina’s success”) by: 

  • Investing in teachers and early childhood education, not tax cuts for the wealthy
  • Using public money for public schools, not private academies via vouchers
  • Keeping politicians out of the classroom, textbooks, and lesson plans

Sound like music to your ears? Us too! Use this one click email to ask Gov. Hobbs to follow suit here in Arizona:

Veto Fodder: As Republican culture-war bills trickle up to the governor’s desk, Gov. Hobbs is slowly but surely issuing vetoes on their all-out attacks on trans youth, educators, and public schools in general. Here are the public education-related bills that met with her veto stamp this past week: 

  • 🗑️SB1001, Kavanagh (R-3), would ban teachers from using a student’s chosen pronouns without written parental permission. This manufactured, divisive culture-war bill hurts students and further politicizes teachers. Vetoed 5/22. 
  • 🗑️HB2428, Gress (R-4), would allow private schools access to the Arizona Teachers Academy scholarship fund. Currently, the grant program helps cover tuition for aspiring teachers only at public universities and community colleges. Vetoed 5/16.
  • 🗑️HB2539, Pingerelli (R-28), would force the State Board of Education to implement a “public awareness program” to prop up school choice in Arizona, including mandatory publicity for ESA vouchers at the taxpayers’ expense. Vetoed 5/19. 
  • 🗑️HB2786, Heap (R-10), would require school boards to notify parents of recommended or funded “training opportunities” for staff as part of the hunt for nonexistent “critical race theory” in schools. Vetoed 5/19. 

The Legislature approved every single one of these bills on party lines, with only Republicans in support. We are grateful for Gov. Hobbs’ willingness to act as a backstop to prevent this harmful legislation from becoming law. 

Your voice matters. A simple phone call or email to your lawmaker asking them to prioritize funding for schools and responsible policies for education goes a long way. In order for Arizona to move forward and thrive, these critical discussions need to take place. Find your legislative district here. Email and phone information for your representatives is here and your senator is here.

Voucher Watch

As the school year comes to a close, privatizers are ramping up their efforts to bolster the ESA voucher program. Pro-voucher special interest groups like the Betsy DeVos-backed American Federation for Children, Center For Arizona Policy (CAP), and CAP-backed Love Your School are pouring marketing dollars into Arizona to advertise vouchers prior to the new school year.

Despite the rollout of universal vouchers, public school enrollment is holding steady. To combat this, privatizers are doing anything they can to push vouchers in every way possible, including social media ads, texting, mailers, and even an ice cream truck

Shockingly, even Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne was recently spotted in a TV ad promoting private school vouchers. 

Meanwhile, charters like Great Hearts are opening private schools to rake in ESA voucher dollars with much less transparency and scrutiny. Great Hearts charters have been embroiled in legal battles and complaints over discrimination towards trans students and Black students. Converting to private schools will mean these schools face less oversight and fewer legal protections for students. 

Special interests spent billions to push through universal ESA vouchers in Arizona – it should be no surprise that they are spending big to expand the program, ensuring a return on their investment. 

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Education Advocacy Mini Sessions

Mondays at 6:30pm 

5/29 – Letters to the Editor

6/5 – Social Media Advocacy

6/12 – Welcome to Team SOSAZ

Bills We're Tracking

We encourage you to scan this section and contact your senator or representatives directly, as applicable, on bills you care about. 


⚠️= veto-proof bill

📥= on Gov. Hobbs’ desk

🗑️ = vetoed

☠️= dead

Ballot Referrals:

  • ⚠️SCR1015, Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to require ballot measures to collect signatures from a percentage of voters in each of Arizona’s 30 legislative districts: 10% for initiatives and 15% for a constitutional amendment. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️SCR1024, Wadsack (R-17), asks voters to enshrine racism in the state Constitution. This would negatively impact student learning, teacher retention and teacher recruitment. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️SCR1034, Mesnard (R-13), would ask voters to amend the state Constitution to automatically extend the previous year’s state budget if lawmakers don’t pass one in time. This would remove the only structural motivation lawmakers have to work together. SCR1034 awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). See duplicate bill HCR2038, Livingston (R-28). OPPOSE.
  • ⚠️SCR1035, Mesnard (R-13), would mandate automatic 50% income tax cuts if Arizona has a surplus. These are permanent cuts to the state general fund – and desperately needed dollars that could be used to bring funding for K-12 schools out of the bottom 5 nationally. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor (and the ballot). OPPOSE.

Attacks on Teachers & Curriculum:

  • 📥SB1040, Kavanagh (R-3), would ban trans kids from using the school bathrooms, changing facilities and “sleeping quarters” that align with their gender identities, further politicizing teachers. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Passed the House 5/15, awaiting transmittal to governor for her signature or veto. OPPOSE.
  • HB2523, Parker (R-10), would require every K-12 student to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily at district and charter schools. Doesn’t apply to taxpayer-funded private schools taking ESA vouchers. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2705, Biasiucci (R-30), would create a training pilot program for district and charter school teachers and staff that qualifies them to carry concealed in schools, and appropriate $10 million from the general fund to run it. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.

Voucher Expansions:

  • 📥SB1243, Mesnard (R-13), would bolster profit for STO vouchers by rolling them into a single category and increasing the maximum contribution amount. Passed the House 5/15, awaiting transmittal to governor for her signature or veto. OPPOSE. 
  • HB2014, Livingston (R-28), would more than triple over 3 years the amount Arizona spends on a specific type of STO voucher. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • HB2504, Parker (R-10), would expand STO vouchers to students in foster care. Public schools serve the vast majority of foster youth, who are already eligible for ESA vouchers. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.

Attacks on Schools, School Boards, Districts:

  • 📥SB1026, Kavanagh (R-3), threatens school funding by banning “drag shows” for people under 18. Violators would lose state funds for 3 years. Broad enough to include school plays and pep rallies. Passed the House 5/15, awaiting transmittal to governor for her signature or veto. OPPOSE. 
  • 📥SB1410, Wadsack (R-17), would require public school boards (but not charter schools or ESA-funded voucher schools) to establish the equivalent of Supt. Horne’s “teacher snitch line” for parents to report purported violations of their rights. Passed the House 5/15, awaiting transmittal to governor for her signature or veto. OPPOSE.
  • SB1596, Mesnard (R-13), would require school district offices to serve as polling places if elections officials ask for it, and require teachers to attend inservice training instead of volunteering at the polls. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1599, Mesnard (R-13), would fine school districts that don’t post teacher salary information as already required by law up to $5,000 per day. Awaits a House floor vote; scheduled 3/20, but retained. OPPOSE. 
  • 📥SB1696, Hoffman (R-15), broadly doubles down on a ban on district and charter schools exposing minors to “sexually explicit materials.” Passed the House 5/15, awaiting transmittal to governor for her signature or veto. OPPOSE.

Resources & Accountability:

  • SB1182, Bennett (R-1), would give private, for-profit universities a share of the $20 million in tax dollars that helps fund teacher training programs, decreasing funding meant for Arizona’s three public universities. This is not only privatization, but poor value for tax money. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1281, Shamp (R-29), gives state income tax rebates of $200 individual, $400 joint, to anyone who filed a return in 2022. This would drain $936 million from the state General Fund, which would mean cuts to K-12 education. Awaits House Rules Committee. A smaller, similar provision was wrapped into the budget. OPPOSE.
  • SB1559, Kaiser (R-2), is a state tax cut for corporations. This would drain money from the state General Fund, spelling cuts to K-12 education. Awaits House Rules Committee. OPPOSE.
  • SB1577, Mesnard (R-13), would mandate automatic 50% income tax cuts if Arizona has a surplus. These are permanent cuts to the state general fund – and desperately needed dollars that could be used to bring funding for K-12 schools out of the bottom 5 nationally. Awaits House Rules Committee, then the floor. OPPOSE.
  • HB2003, Livingston (R-28), would slash corporate income taxes nearly in half by 2025. Arizona’s tax giveaways already far outpace the entire state budget. Awaits Senate Rules Committee. OPPOSE.

Frustrated by what you see here? Use our one-click email tool to tell lawmakers you want Arizona to focus on real education needs, not bloated boondoggles:

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